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As the nation celebrates Women's History Month in March 2020, Southwark Cathedral are delighted to host a day of talks focusing on the Tudor Queens who shaped the history of modern Britain.
Four of the country's foremost historians on the Tudor period present four different presentations. The day will conclude with a panel discussion with our speakers, who will debate the day's talks and take questions from the audience.
If you are interested in the Tudor period or women's history then join us to discover the six wives of Henry VIII, the scandal between Elizabeth I and Thomas Seymour which led to the creation of the Virgin Queen, the intimate feminized world of the Elizabethan court and the moving, human story of Lady Jane Grey.
10.30am - The Six Wives of Henry VIII
One of the most powerful monarchs in British history, Henry VIII ruled England in unprecedented splendour. In this remarkable presentation, Alison Weir brings Henry's six wives vividly to life, revealing each as a distinct and compelling personality in her own right.
Drawing upon the rich fund of documentary material from the Tudor period, The Six Wives of Henry VIII shows us a court where personal needs frequently influenced public events and where a life of gorgeously ritualised pleasure was shot through with ambition, treason and violence.
Alison Weir is the biggest-selling female historian (and the fifth best-selling historian) in the United Kingdom since records began in 1997.
She has published twenty-three titles and sold more than 3 million books - over a million in the UK and more than 2.1 million in the USA. She is now working on two concurrent series of books: Six Tudor Queens, comprising six novels on the wives of Henry VIII, and England's Medieval Queens, a quartet of historical works of non-fiction.
Dr Nicola Tallis
11.30am – Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey
Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same.
These were the words uttered by the seventeen-year-old Lady Jane Grey as she stood on the scaffold awaiting death on a cold February morning in 1554. Forced onto the throne by the great power players at court, Queen Jane reigned for just thirteen tumultuous days before being imprisoned in the Tower, condemned for high treason and executed.
In this dramatic retelling of an often misread tale, historian and researcher Nicola Tallis explores a range of evidence that has never before been used in a biography to sweep away the many myths and reveal the moving, human story of an extraordinarily intelligent, independent and courageous young woman.
Dr Nicola Tallis is a British historian and researcher. Her debut book, Crown of Blood: The Deadly Inheritance of Lady Jane Grey, was published to wide praise. Nicola is also the author of Elizabeth's Rival: The Tumultous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester. and Uncrowned Queen: The Fateful Life of Margaret Beaufort, Tudor Matriarch. Nicola has previously lectured at the University of Winchester and worked with Historic Royal Palaces and the National Trust.
12.30pm - Lunch
Dr Elizabeth Norton
1.30pm – The Temptation of Elizabeth Tudor
England, late 1547. Henry VIII is dead. His 14-year-old daughter Elizabeth is living with the old king's widow Catherine Parr and her new husband Thomas Seymour. Ambitious, charming and dangerous, Seymour begins an overt flirtation with Elizabeth that ends in her being sent away by Catherine.
When Catherine dies in autumn 1548 and Seymour is arrested for treason soon after, the scandal explodes into the open. Alone and in dreadful danger, Elizabeth is closely questioned by the king's regency council: Was she still a virgin? Was there a child? Had she promised to marry Seymour? In her replies, she shows the shrewdness and spirit she would later be famous for. She survives the scandal. Thomas Seymour is not so lucky.
The Seymour Scandal led to the creation of the Virgin Queen. On hearing of Seymour's beheading, Elizabeth observed 'This day died a man of much wit, and very little judgement'. His fate remained with her. She would never allow her heart to rule her head again.
Dr Elizabeth Norton is a historian of the queens of England and the Tudor period. She is the author of biographies of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves and Catherine Parr, and of England's Queens: The Biography.
Dr Anna Whitelock
2.30pm – Elizabeth’s Bedfellows: An Intimate History of the Queen's Court
Elizabeth I acceded to the throne in 1558, restoring the Protestant faith to England. At the heart of the new queen’s court lay Elizabeth’s bedchamber, closely guarded by the favoured women who helped her dress, looked after her jewels and shared her bed.
Elizabeth’s private life was of public, political concern. Her bedfellows were witnesses to the face and body beneath the make-up and elaborate clothes, as well as to rumoured illicit dalliances with such figures as Robert Dudley. Their presence was for security as well as propriety, as the kingdom was haunted by fears of assassination plots and other Catholic subterfuge. For such was the significance of the queen’s body: it represented the very state itself.
This riveting, revealing history of the politics of intimacy uncovers the feminized world of the Elizabethan court. Between the scandal and intrigue the women who attended the queen were the guardians of the truth about her health, chastity and fertility. Their stories offer extraordinary insight into the daily life of the Elizabethans, the fragility of royal favour and the price of disloyalty.
Anna Whitelock gained her PhD in History from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, in 2004 with a thesis on the court of Mary I. Her articles and book reviews on various aspects of Tudor history have appeared in publications including the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement and BBC History. She has taught at Cambridge University and is now a lecturer in Early Modern Hsitory at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her bestselling debut, Mary Tudor, was published to critical acclaim in 2009; Elizabeth's Bedfellows is her second book.
3.30pm - Break